A new benchmark for sustainable business leadership through ambition and action

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26 October, 2020


Insights from the CEO



Peter Bakker

Today marks an important milestone, for WBCSD and for our member companies – and for me personally.

Since 1995, at WBCSD we have been the go-to place for businesses that are serious about sustainability and demonstrate true leadership for sustainable development. A leading business sustainability organization that I was proud to join as President & CEO some eight years ago.

Now, in our 25th year, we decided to bring our membership requirements in line with the urgent challenges facing our society – climate emergency, nature loss and inequality – by adding new, comprehensive criteria to our membership conditions:

  1. Set an ambition to reach net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, no later than 2050 and have a science-informed plan to achieve it.
  2. Set ambitious, science-informed, short and mid-term environmental goals that contribute to nature/biodiversity recovery by 2050.
  3. Declare support for the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights by having in place a policy to respect human rights and a human rights due diligence process.
  4. Declare support for inclusion, equality, diversity and the elimination of any form of discrimination.
  5. Operate at the highest level of transparency by disclosing material sustainability information in line with the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) and align Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) with environmental, social and governance-related (ESG) risks.

The updated conditions will allow our member companies focus on putting credible science-based action plans into motion to transform our economic systems. Additionally, we expect our member companies to strive to the highest standards in corporate governance and transparency, aimed at enhancing the comparability of data for investors and other stakeholders.

The fact that these were accepted by a strong majority of the leaders of our members during the 2020 Annual General Meeting (AGM) – based on the unanimous recommendation by our Executive Committee (ExCo) – shows that we are indeed the place for leadership and action on sustainability, but also that our members are pushing for higher standards.

Especially during this devastating pandemic, such an outcome underlines that businesses have not lost track of the greater pressing challenges looming ahead and are building forward better by working on tackling them urgently and collectively, to create a world in which all 9+ billion people can live well within the boundaries of our planet.

In 2021 and going forward, our main focus will be on turning sustainability ambitions into concrete actions, to make the resulted transformations real. Getting the new membership criteria approved was a first major step, now we need to keep the momentum going and step up on the critical work needed for that.

The bottom line is that if we don’t radically change in the next decade, there is no point in optimism, because we will run out of time. The work with our members is already ongoing, and coincides with the Vision 2050 refresh – to be published in early 2021 – the purpose of which is to formulate an action agenda for business for 2021-2030 to deliver the change that our planet and people desperately need.

We will continue to further support our members in their journeys towards adhering to the updated membership conditions and keeping their leadership positions in the world of sustainability and business.  

The adoption of the updated membership conditions is an important milestone for our organization but also sets a new benchmark for companies that are serious about leading and being sustainable. Our lives have been upended by COVID-19, and as the world focuses on what building back or forward better would entail, this new benchmark that addresses our most pressing issues gives business a path forward for action. This is worth celebrating and it will deliver a true change in the rules of the game while showcasing our collective ambition and action to make sustainability a reality.

Thank you to everyone involved for making this happen and keep watching this space for more.